I have to admit, “The Spell” by Chandi Kelley grabbed me from my first day at Adah Rose Gallery, and not for the normal “high brow” art analysis reasons. Growing up, there were very few things I loved more than unicorns, witches, and fantastical worlds filled with magic. Now, botanical prints like the wallpaper in this photograph fill my own decor. Needless to say, this was a very personally, individually pleasing piece.
However, the more I have stayed with this photograph, the more I find thoughtful and subtle layers to this playful piece.
Visually, it’s a study in how a symmetrical, balanced composition can stay dynamic when the artist applies the rule of thirds. (The rule is easy shorthand for the principal of keeping elements in a piece along invisible lines that divide the composition into thirds both horizontally and vertically.) The different poses in the two unicorn bookends keep a sense of movement by not being too perfectly symmetrical. The bright, high contrast pattern in the background adds further visual dynamism.
Intellectually, the photograph is a portrait without being a portrait. Domestic environments can be just as revealing about their owner as that owner’s face, and this photograph does a wonderful job of capturing an aspect of that person’s personality. It’s remarkably easy to feel as if one already knows the owner of this bookshelf. To delve a little deeper, the photograph speaks to how our texts inform our identities; the books are arranged with a level of care and intention that suggest how formative they were to the owner. They’re the kind of books that create a portrait all their own.
Schuyler Krogh Kenyon College 2015